The young man walks fast by himself through the crowd that thins into the night streets; feet are tired from hours of walking; eyes greedy for warm curve of faces, answering flicker of eyes, the set of a head, the lift of a shoulder, the way hands spread and clench; blood tingles with wants; mind is a beehive of hopes buzzing and stinging... The young man walks by himself searching through the crowd with greedy eyes, greedy eyes taut to hear, by himself, alone.

from John Dos Passos's The 42nd Parallel
"Se me aparecen los muertos en los sueños, se me mezclan con los que no están ni vivos ni muertos."
"¿Cómo que no están ni vivos ni muertos?"
"Quiero decir los que han cambiado, los que han crecido, nosotros mismos sin ir más lejos."
"Ahora te entiendo, ya no somos niños, eso quieres decir."
"Y a veces tengo la impresión de que no voy a poder despertar, de que la he cagado ya para siempre."
"Ésas son fijaciones, no más, compadre."

from Roberto Bolaño's "Los Detectives"
"I wasn't always smart, I was actually very stupid in school. There was a boy who was very attractive who was even stupider than I was. And in order to ingratiate myself with this boy who was very beautiful, I began to do his homework for him – and that's how I became smart, I had to do all this work to just keep ahead of him a little bit, in order to help him. In a sense, all the rest of my life I've been trying to do intellectual things that would attract beautiful boys."

from James Miller's The Passion of Michel Foucault
This career — it is a handful of dust in the end. One may fixate on it as if it were not. Presumably this career safeguards one from having to read one's face and the mask behind it, which reveals, truly, what is in the mind and the quality of what is in the mind.

When this mask cracks — underneath it, that is writing.

from Hilton Als's White Girls
I wish those miserable people in the windows would turn out the lights and go to sleep. Who was the first human being to look out a window? (Applause.)

I can't string two words together. I can't express myself coherently or write what I want. I should probably give up everything and go away, isn't that what Teresa of Avila did? (Applause and laughter.)

from Roberto Bolaño's Antwerp
I'm not sure exactly what I did for those two years. A lot of the time, I think, nothing. I know this is one of those unthinkable taboos of our society, but I had discovered in myself a talent for a wonderful, unrepentant laziness, the kind most people never know after childhood. I told people I was taking a gap year, but the truth was that I wanted to do nothing, absolutely nothing, for as long as possible, maybe for the rest of my life.

from Tana French's Into the Woods
The day came when I decided to give up literature. I gave it up. This was in no way traumatic but rather liberating. Between you and me, I’ll confess that it was like losing my virginity.

from Roberto Bolaño's 2666
This post can be found here:

http://inaquestionmark.blogspot.com/p/viewer-discretion-advised.html
Chantal glided behind and past the curtain, appearing on the other side with a trace of luminosity—just a trace. Then—the trace would vanish, when she turned and glided back against the curtain, landing with a tender step right where she began. "But why," she repeated, her juvenile pout further incensing the dwarf. The hard, contemptuous blinks taking place beneath his gunpowder line of an eyebrow did little to move Chantal toward some semblance of humanity, or else even marginally chip at her pervasive self-involvement. “Show me,” she said, her bottom lip under the innocent grasp of her rightmost maxillary cuspid. “Show me.”

And so the dwarf (whose name has been since long forgotten, whose name neither Chantal nor the dwarf ever knew) toiled away, the isochronal morning inquisitions ("But why," "Show me," et cet.) awakening him to full days of refining the machine Chantal had unknowingly requested.

"Show me."

***

In 1991, Flemish neurochemist Pietre Boeyhaert published an article entitled, "Characteristics of Near-Death Experience (NDE) Memories as Compared to Real and Imagined Experience Memories," in the NANE TWO journal, published by the Swiss Neuroscience Center in Köniz, and edited by Cuban-born neuroscientist Roberto Elisiano Valdes-Sosa. The article—funded by the University and University Hospital of Zurich, the Swiss National Funds for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS), the European Commissions (COST, DISCOS, MINDBRIDGE, DECODER), the Terrance Swanson Foundation, the Psychical Neuroscience Foundation, the Flemish Speaking Community Concerted Research Action (ARC 06/11-340), and the Foundation Médicale Reine Elisabeth—employed in its study a Memory Description Questionnaire (MDQ), developed in 1987 by Drs. Marshall Roubard, Gene Storrow, and Melvin Seward of Princeton University's Department of Cognitive Psychology.

Melvin Seward died in 1999 at age 78 of a stroke.

Gene Storrow died in 2007 at age 56 in a five-car pile-up in London.

Marshall Roubard died in 1991 at age 59 of a heart attack.

Roberto Elisiano Valdes-Sosa drowned while swimming in the Pacific Ocean in 2009, at age 71.

Pietre Boeyhaert died in 1993 on his 40th birthday.

***

It is in the middle of one of Chantal’s miniature promenades (which look like the lazy pacing of a sedated neurotic) that she hears the shriek. Piercing, the eureka echoes into the grandes chambres of the palace, shooting over the calcatta white countertops and around the 24-carat faucets, past the Japanese oak crown molding and seeping into, soaking, irrevocably intertwining itself with the threads of the velvet curtain. Chantal’s heart stops; now she shall see.

In the instant thereafter, the dwarf feels nothing save for the crescendoing tremor of Chantal’s footsteps above.

"In pace requiescat," the dwarf exhales silently.

***

Roubard et al's MDQ functions as follows: first, they situated their subjects comfortably in one of three identical examination rooms and there read aloud an extensive series of words and sentences associated with -- but never including direct mention of -- a certain abstract concept, which Roubard et al referred to as a "focus."

Half of the subjects would then be read a new series of single words representing varied potential "foci," i.e., abstract concepts that were or were not related to the words and sentences that they had been read in the first part of the study. For each of these words, the subjects were questioned as to whether or not that potential focus was addressed by the primary series of words/sentences, and how confident, on a scale of one to five, they were in their determination.

The second half of the subjects instead completed "memory description questionnaires," asking them to characterize, with single words, what they remembered of the series of words/sentences, and to then divide these responses into words they heard and words they did not hear. It also asked them to rate each of their words on a scale of one to five as to how sure they were that they did or did not hear the word during the primary part of the study.

Roubard et al discovered that rates of false recognition were significantly lower than rates of correct recognition when subjects were asked to complete the MDQ. In other words, subjects were far more likely to pinpoint the pre-established focus -- and to be more confident in their determinations -- when asked to describe their memories than when presented with potential memories and asked to determine whether those potential memories aligned with their own. Roubard wrote, "This demonstrates that false memories can be affected both by how they are acquired and by how extensively they are examined at retrieval."

***

In his journal (found charred but legible in what was determined to be the servants’ dining room), the dwarf relays a tender moment between the two orphans some years before her demise: it is thunderstorming, and the dwarf has once more undergone the arduous journey of climbing to the roof, made no easier by the hefty bag of rations he carries in tow. The dwarf finds Chantal exactly where she has been since the cessation of her strolls behind the curtain: she is seated at the edge of the roof, legs dangling above the precipice. Wordlessly, the two play their roles, as the script requires, until -- for reasons unarticulated by the dwarf in his writings -- he suddenly breaks character. Rather than depart to his quarters, as his stage directions indicate, the dwarf stays, and the two share a silent meal together in the torrential rain. "She was born to die," the dwarf scrawls, “but that night I for the first time lamented the certainty of her fate."

***

Pietre Boeyhaert's study used the powerful—and, by 1991, widely adopted—MDQ with regards to five different kinds of memories: "focus memories" (for the NDE group, the memory of the NDE; for the control groups, their first childhood memory), old and recent real-event memories, and old and recent imagined-event memories. Since NDEs were known to have high emotional content, all participants were requested to choose "emotionally salient" moments for both kinds of real- and imagined-event memories. Boeyhaert used a SONY DCI-781A hand-held camcorder to record his subjects describing each of the five kinds of memories, then asked them to return to his laboratory in small Oberried two months later.

Upon their return, half of Boeyheart's subjects were asked to fill out MDQs with regards to each of the different kinds of memories. The other half of the subjects were first asked to watch the video footage of their description of their memories, and then fill out the MDQs.

Boeyhaert found that the NDE memories of NDE subjects had more characteristics of real or imagined memories than the real or imagined memories of the control groups. In other words, NDE subjects remembered more about their NDE experience than control subjects did about their memories, real or imagined, and were more confident in doing so.

In addition, Boeyhaert's research indicated that, when it came to control subjects, rates of false recognition were significantly higher than rates of correct recognition with regards to real memories -- old and recent -- for subjects who did not watch the video footage of their previous description of the memories, but that this discrepancy did not exist for NDE subjects. In other words, sixty days was long enough for control subjects' recollections of their memories to change significantly, yet NDE subjects' recollections of their NDE memories unflinchingly persisted.

***

The moment Chantal dies, the dwarf is several hundred yards away, taking the first of several bites into a saltine cracker. Chantal tilts her body forward a few degrees. The still smoothly-shaped menisci of her eyelids succumb to gravity. She falls. The events then occur exactly as they had in the dwarf’s simulation: the release into groundless space, the influx of weightlessness, the mad descent, and the forceful impact. Chantal does not feel her neck break.

Then, the flood. Chantal knows her eyes are closed; she cannot feel the asphalt but is aware that she is lying face-down on it; and yet a vicious dot of light appears, miles away, searing, an illumination so intense it cannot be held inside its tiny enclosure for long, and it expands, explodes into a pervasive phosphorescence, so encompassing it feels to Chantal as though it is snaking down her esophagus, through her veins, into her core; she is the Light. (This sequence she knows from the simulation; this sequence is no surprise. But this is also the point at which the simulation ends.) When Chantal attempts to open her eyes, however, they don’t; she tries again but cannot; and again, but no; and again, and again, until the end of time, Chantal tries; but never did her eyes open again.

***

The final sentence of Boeyhaert's article: "Further investigation is needed to better understand this phenomenon."

***

The final entry in the dwarf's journal: "…her left eye twitched, and I thought it would open. I was sure it would open.

But it never did, and I suppose that is for the best."
Too much experience gets into the way of the silence that’s needed to write, and the time that is needed... [If] you write as quickly as you experience, you’re not making sense of what you experience. It’s like you’re running alongside a horse. You need time to look at the horse from all sides and be able to describe it.

Because we create the world, we shape society in accordance to how we define it. If you define it in accordance to what the eye can see, you only give fixed answers, you bring about progress in a certain way, you train children in a certain way, you give them memorising exercises, you force them to do this, to learn that.

But if you let space for what you don’t see, you also shape the world but you leave gaps, you leave spaces for the unknown.

You allow people to play, to discover.

from Ben Okri's August 2009 interview with MO*
"There are no heroes here."

from Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher III: I'm the Angel of Death
"All that we have left now is our memories."

"It'd be a shame to see a lifetime of work go to waste."

from Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America
Carl DiSalvo articulates a new way of designing things that, instead of promoting consensus and efficiency, is inspired by the idea of endless antagonism and contestation of social and political norms and arrangements. The goal of this "adversarial design" is not just to build an artifact to fulfill some genuine social need but also to make us reflect on how that need has emerged, how it has become a project worth pursuing, and how it may actually not be worth pursuing at all.

DiSalvo marshals up numerous examples: crime maps that, instead of showing the distribution of crimes on a city map, show which city blocks have the most former residents incarcerated; browser extensions that add information about military funding to the websites of universities or convert all prices on sites like Amazon into their equivalent in barrels of oil; and umbrellas with electric lights that defeat the recognition algorithms of surveillance cameras.

"If we abandon the notion that any one design will completely or even adequately address our social concerns or resolve our social issues," he writes, "then adversarial design can provide those spaces of confrontation -- in the form of products, services, events, and processes -- through which political concerns and issues can [be] expressed and engaged."

from Evgeny Mozorov's To Save Everything, Click Here
Schmidt and Cohen sensibly recognize that "technology has nothing to do with whether an individual has the attributes to fill the role of statesman... Building a Facebook page does not constitute a plan; actual operational skills are what will carry a revolution to a successful conclusion." They admit the detrimental effects [this cultural shift toward certain technologies] will have on security and privacy, but can imagine no plausible or meaningful alternatives. Instead of looking for ways to reorient technological development, they give us rules for orienting ourselves to it: “Since information wants to be free, don’t write anything down you don’t want read back to you in court or printed on the front page of the newspaper.”

This type of individualistic focus acquiesces, regretfully, to a post-privacy future, rather than imagining how norms and laws could be instituted to protect us from it.

Schmidt and Cohen [seem] blind to the politics embedded in the very fabric of any given technology’s makeup... [They] spend far too little time scrutinizing and asking critical questions about the digital devices and connectivity they praise. “The central truth of the technology industry — that technology is neutral but people are not — will periodically be lost amid all the noise,” Schmidt and Cohen plainly state. “But our collective progress as citizens in the digital age will hinge on our not forgetting it.”

What this formulation misses is that... technologies are not impartial conduits through which users enact their wishes. There are indeed people who will seek to use digital tools for specific purposes not intended by their designers, but the technologies themselves also come with a suite of biases, politics, and values that are both consciously and unconsciously programmed into them... A technology is not good or evil, per se, but neither is it a neutral thing in the world. Technologies afford some activities and types of relationships more than they do others, and it’s crucial for those who design, manufacture, and market those technologies to understand those affordances.

from Jathan Sadowski's Los Angeles Review of Books review of Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s The New Digital Age
Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting and modern.

And if I do, perhaps I am myself again.

from Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency
"Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you've experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away. Then, as an individual, you can be more powerful than a whole country.

I think I'm an eternal optimist. I think optimism is whether you are still exhilarated by life, whether you are curious, whether you still believe there is possibility. From this perspective, I am very much an optimist."

from Alison Klayman's Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
After you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may look different to you than they did before. But don't let appearances fool you.

There's always only one reality.

from Haruki Murakami's 1Q84
We’re no empire. We’re just a bunch of flawed, selfish people. And that’s not our weakness -- it’s our strength. The one thing that we can count on at any given moment is that the one of us are paying for a mistake made by another and that means that at any given moment one of us is screwing up so badly that he or she is going to forgive whoever screws up next. Now I’m gonna do something that Octavian never would: I’m gonna say that whoever untied the professor -- I don’t give a crap. Because whoever it was, I know it was some flawed, selfish, weak, hopeless soul like me.

from Dan Harmon's Community


"We sat on deck at night and the sky was beautifully clear and sometimes we saw a kind of halo moving across the star fields and we used to speculate what is this. A luminous disc slowly crossing. And I decided this is the refracted light from an object way up there, this is the circular form it takes. Because I wanted to believe that's what we were seeing. B-52s.

"War scared me all right but those lights, I have to tell you those lights were a complex sensation. Those planes on permanent alert, ever present you know, sweeping the Soviet borders, and I remember sitting out there and feeling a sense of awe, a child's sleepy feeling of mystery and danger beauty.

"I think that is power. I think if you maintain a force in the world that comes into people's sleep, you are exercising a meaningful power. Now that power is in shatters or tatters and now that those Soviet borders don't even exist in the same way, I think we understand, we look back, we see ourselves more clearly, and them as well.

"Power meant something fifty, sixty years ago. It was stable, it was focused, it was a tangible thing. It was greatness, danger, terror, all those things. And it held us together, the Soviets and us. Maybe it held the world together. You could measure things. You could measure hope and you could measure destruction.

"Many things that were anchored to the balance of power and the balance of terror seem to be undone, unstuck. Things have no limits now. Money has no limits. Money is undone. Violence is undone, violence is easier now, it's uprooted, out of control, it has no measure anymore, it has no level of values.

"I don't want to disarm the world. Or I do want to disarm the world but I want it to be done warily and realistically and in the full knowledge of what we're giving up. You see. We all tried to think about war but I'm not sure we knew how to do this. The poets wrote long poems with dirty words and that's about as close as we came, actually, to a thoughtful response.

"Because they had brought something into the world that out-imagined the mind."

from Don DeLillo's Underworld

do you know what you're fighting for
My tendency to idealize Western civilization arises from my nationalistic desire to use the West in order to reform... But this has led me to overlook the flaws of Western culture... I have been obsequious toward Western civilization, exaggerating its merits, and at the same time exaggerating my own merits. I have viewed the West as if it were not only [salvation] but also the natural and ultimate destination of all humanity. Moreover I have used this delusional idealism to assign myself the role of savior...

I now realize that Western civilization cannot save humanity. If we stand back for a moment, we can see that it possesses all the flaws of humanity in general... If I want to reflect on the fate of humanity or how to be an authentic person, I have no choice but to carry out two critiques simultaneously.

I must:

1. Use Western civilization as a tool to critique.

2. Use my own creativity to critique the West.

from Liu Xiaobo's No Enemies, No Hatred
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